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Three former employees sue Housing Authority

By Shavonne Potts
spotts@salisburypost.com
Three former employees of the Rowan County Housing Authority have filed a civil lawsuit against the agency claiming discrimination.
Alma J. Bostian and Barbara Walser, who are white, and Carleen White, who is black, filed the suit in U.S. District Court in Greensboro. Their attorney is Romallus Murphy.
The lawsuit alleges the Housing Authority followed a ěpolicy and practice of discriminating against plaintiffs by retaliating against plaintiffs for engaging in protected activity.î
After the women reported what they believed to be racial discrimination, the suit says, they were denied employment rights and contract rights.
Bostian was hired by the Housing Authority in 2002, White in 2005, and Walser in 2006.
The women allege they observed discriminating treatment and heard racist remarks in the workplace directed at minority employees and tenants.
Although Housing Authority Executive Director Sara Potts is not named as a defendant in the lawsuit, it alleges she made derogatory statements about employees and black tenants. Potts did not return phone calls from the Post.
The board of directors became aware of the issues and requested written information from employees about the allegations as part of an internal investigation, the lawsuit says.
The women were asked to provide this information in June 2009, and a month later, all were fired and told it was for ěviolating confidentiality rules.î
According to the suit, the women made statements during the investigation accusing Potts of ěconstantly making derogatory statements about a caucasian employee who was married to an African-American male.î
They also said Potts made references ěto the familyís mixed childrenî and said ěthat she could not see how a white woman could have children with an African-American male.î
According to the lawsuit, the women accused Potts of ěconstantly referring to African-American tenants as ëyour peopleí î and said she ěspoke in derogatory terms about African-American tenants.î
According to the womenís attorney, the white employee married to a black man who was the target of some of the derogatory comments is not a plaintiff in the lawsuit.
The former Housing Authority employees filed a complaint with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The agency ruled in December they had grounds for a lawsuit.
The case has been referred to mediation and all parties must also give their consent to have their case heard before a magistrate. Murphy, the womenís attorney, has not filed.
Each of the women is asking for damages in excess of $10,000.
Attempts to reach Bostian were unsuccessful. Barbara Walser referred questions to her attorney. There is no phone listing for White.
Contact reporter Shavonne Potts at 704-797-4253.

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